Posted by Mike on

A Day in the Life Part 5: Shelter from the Storm

A Day in the Life Part 5: Shelter from the Storm

The cool breeze that began blowing across your back a few minutes ago has a scent to it.  It’s the humid, damp scent of wet earth.  Though the incoming storm clouds haven’t quite yet blocked the late day sun, that event is quickly approaching.  With a sigh you heave out of the hammock and walk to your pack, still perched against the tree.

In the bottom of your pack, you dig around until the thin nylon bag that contains your tarp is felt.  Weaving it around the various loose items, you slide out the bag and quickly head to your hammock.  Unwittingly, you’ve left your stakes in the bottom of your pack, but you don’t realize it just yet.  Opening the drawstring, your tarp slides out easily, and falls to the ground.  Being almost asleep when you noticed the towering clouds, your mind is in a slight panic state, and for some reason, your tarp landing on the ground gives you just enough pause to stop and clearly think.

There isn’t much time to waste.

Posted by Mike on

A Day in the Life Part 4: Home-making

A Day in the Life Part 4: Home-making

As you gaze around from inside the grove of Red Spruce that will be your home for the night, visions start dancing in your head of sitting by the campfire silently.  At this point, you’re slightly conflicted.  Your feet are tired from the hike, and your hammock only takes five minutes to set up.  On the other hand, it’s much easier to gather firewood before you sit down to take a load off, because you know you won’t want to get back up for a while.

Walking over to the two trees that will be your foundation, you drop your pack and unclasp the top pouch.  Shoving your hand into the nylon bird’s nest inside, you feel around and find your folding saw.  Your decision has been made.  Firewood gathering will come first.  After a large swig of water, you wander over towards the thicker trees, secretly hoping you will come across a full cord of seasoned, split hickory that a good Samaritan has left.  A quality fire is all about preparation, so you’ve resolved yourself to 45 minutes of gathering.

Behind a few rhododendrons, you spot a tall maple tree peeking out.  Here’s hoping it’s dropped a few branches.

Posted by Shelby on

Pyro’s Posts: Watch out for Tornadoes

Periodically, my 9-year-old daughter, Shelby (trail name: Pyro) will be writing something for Backcountry Mentor, allowing her to describe and share about her views on hiking, camping, and backpacking.  What follows is her second installment.

Shelby at Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, OH

Shelby at Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, OH

Posted by Mike on

A Day in the Life Part 3: Pushing On

A Day in the Life Part 3: Pushing On

As you sit on a rock, finishing your lunch, your mind wanders.  Your muscles have cooled by this point, and the warm sun is inviting you to lean back and relax.  This is a rough decision, because you know that you still have about 4 miles left to get to your planned camp area.  Common sense prevails, and with the forecasted rain later, it is much smarter to pack up and move along.

You can relax in your hammock later, and it’s always more comfortable than a rock.

Posted by Mike on

A Day in the Life Part 2: Hitting the Trail

A Day in the Life Part 2: Hitting the Trail

 

There’s a crispness to the air as you take those first steps.  You haven’t warmed up yet, but you were smart enough to go with just a t-shirt, because you know you’ll be sweating soon otherwise.  Your pace is always a little ambitious at the start; it is a combination of excitement and well rested legs.  As you venture into the green tunnel of trees, you can feel civilization becoming more distant.  The feeling of anxiety suddenly morphs from that however.  Did you lock the car?  Is your bag of snacks still sitting on the passenger seat?  Did you make sure that your headlamp had new batteries?

Then you remember that there are a thousand things that can go wrong, but just being out here is worth it.  “If my headlamp dies, I’ll just crawl into my bag”, you tell yourself.  “If the car is unlocked, at least a thief won’t break the windows” flashes across your mind.  Something about the leaves fluttering in the breeze and the birds singing can make you find a silver lining from any possible what-if.

You walk on.

Posted by Mike on

A Day in the Life Part 1: Stepping Out

You wake up this morning at 4:00 AM.  Twilight hasn’t even begun, but the screeching of the alarm, coupled with your subconscious excitement jolts you from sleep.  The air is still and dry, as it usually is inside, and you feel overly warm, almost claustrophobic.

Quietly, you roll out of bed, trying not to wake others, and creep to the kitchen.  The foresight to load the coffee maker the night before is suddenly much more appreciated.  As you press the button and wait for the hissing sounds and smell to fill the kitchen, you don your clothes and brush your teeth.  In far too much of a hurry, you pour your cup of coffee before the pot is done brewing, and place the carafe back on the coffee maker to let it finish.  You mind is racing, wondering if you’ll have everything you need for the day, and you’re pacing around the kitchen.

As the first sip of coffee hits your lips, the warmth now brings a quiet comfort to your mind.  You’ve researched, read articles, pored over information, and spent hours going through different scenarios.  “I’m ready”, you silently say to yourself.

The items you packed, unpacked, and repacked numerous times over the past few days are picked up and carried to the car.  You’ve even thrown an extra change of clothes in.  Having them out of the house and in the vehicle is a milestone, because all that’s left is to pour a cup for the road, quietly say goodbye to your loved ones, and walk out the door.

You’re going backpacking today.

Posted by Mike on

A Day in the Life: Introduction

A Day in the Life: Introduction

In The Complete Walker, Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins describe a day and night out on the trail from the hiker's perspective.  I've always found those passages able to put me in the mindset to pack up and get outside.  I can see myself being out there with them, enjoying every step, smelling every pine, and feeling every breeze blow across my face.

Just the same, writing about it has also put me in that same space.  Not quite as good as being there, but still enjoyable to think about.  I can not only daydream about the places I'll go, but I can remember the places I've been.  Not every trip is the same, but there are always some things that remain similar throughout them all.  It may be my morning routine, driving to the trailhead, or how I enjoy my lunch on the trail.  It could be stoking the night's fire, or listening to the sounds of the dark woods.  Each trip is unique and familiar at the same time.

With that said, I've decided to share what a typical day in the life of a backpacker may be, from a third person perspective, as if I was watching myself and narrating it.  I have titled this A Day in the Life.

Read More

Posted by Shelby on

Pyro’s Posts: Why I like Backpacking

Pyro’s Posts: Why I like Backpacking

Shelby in the Great Smokies, enjoying nature!

Every month, my 9-year-old daughter, Shelby (trail name: Pyro) will be writing something for Backcountry Mentor.  This allows her to describe and share about her views on hiking, camping, and backpacking.  I don’t assist her in writing in any way, other than publishing the posts themselves.  I won’t edit the posts, no punctuation checking, no grammar changes, no content editing.  This allows her the freedom to use her own opinions without fear of it feeling like homework  I am simply allowing her to come up with the ideas on her own, and write about whatever she wants to in relation to her own love of nature.  What follows is her first installment.  

Shelby in the Great Smokies, enjoying nature!

Shelby in the Great Smokies, enjoying nature!

Posted by Mike on

One Overlooked Material with Numerous Backcountry Uses

One Overlooked Material with Numerous Backcountry Uses

Outdoor retailers are overflowing with gear designed to do two things: perform a solitary function, and sell.  In some cases, this is inevitable.  A tent can’t cook a meal for you, and a stove can’t put a roof over your head.  The accessories that surround camping and backpacking gear however can nickle and dime you to the poor house.

There is one material though that can replace a ton of different “specialty” items, and the best news is that it’s cheap, light, packable, durable, and readily available!  In the gear world, that’s an enigma.  Those into the ultralight backpacking discipline may be familiar with it, but for most people venturing out into the woods for the first time, it is all too simple to go to REI, purchase the “essentials”, and then stand in wonderment at all of the extra “comfort” accessories designed to make your life easier and your wallet lighter.  They can walk out of the store with a $200 tent, and $300 worth of items that get used for one single thing.

So what is this wonder material I’m talking about?